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Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
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 UPDATE–DECEMBER 20, 2011:   Since the original publication of this Dark Daily e-briefing on December 19, 2011, the version of the story published by 24/7 Wall Street on November 15, 2011 has been edited following a letter, dated December 19, 2011, that was sent by the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS). 24/7 Wall Street has removed the profession it titled “Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians” from its list of the “most-educated and least-paid” professions. It has also added a correction at the bottom of the story that is titled “The Seven Jobs That Require the Most Education, but Pay the Least.”   Dark Daily is leaving this e-briefing unedited, as it accurately describes the original list of seven “most-educated, least-paid” professions that was published by 24/7 Wall Street. 

More than 156,000 well-educated medical technologists and clinical laboratory scientists earn less than most professions

Most medical technologists (MT) and clinical laboratory scientists (CLS) recognize that they don’t earn salaries that are comparable to many other professions that require a four-year college degree and additional professional training. Now a recent survey confirms that widely-held belief by ranking med techs and CLSs as the number three job on the list of most-educated and least-paid professions.

In a recent 24/7 Wall St. article, “The Seven Jobs That Require the Most Education, but Pay the Least,” Reporter Michael B. Sauter identified seven occupations that typically require at least a four-year college degree but which offer some of the lowest professional salaries. Sauter noted that the average college graduate in 2010 owed $25,250 in student loans, an all-time high.

“Many of the people employed in the jobs on our list will have a hard time paying off their student loans,” observed Sauter. “The occupations on the list earn less than $40,000 annually. In every case, jobs paid far less to start. A quarter of the people employed as survey researchers, for example, earn less than $24,000 annually.”

Sauter further emphasized the poor pay for the jobs on his most-educated/least-paid list. “Jobs that pay poorly and require a college degree or higher have at least one thing in common: the wrong industry. Some industries… tend to pay poorly. The entry level jobs in these fields and on this list do not pay well.”

Sauter culled wage data collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics Database. He then combined that data with educational requirements.

Next, Sauter used an independent career research and advisory site, O’Net Online, for the calculations of the percentages of bachelor’s, master’s, and/or PhD’s held by workers within each of the seven occupations that he identified. While Sauter’s results are not particularly surprising to pathologists and clinical laboratory managers, it is a reminder that the medical laboratory industry will need to raise the level of salaries and compensation paid to medical technologists and clinical laboratory scientists if it is going to attract new individuals to this profession.

Ranking Finds Educated Medical Laboratory Workers Underpaid

The 24/7 Wall St. list offers an array of professional occupations that include museum technicians and conservators (fourth ranked), survey researchers (second on the list), and news reporters and correspondents (listed first). Four of the seven occupations that were ranked were associated with healthcare: recreational therapists (seventh), biological technicians (sixth), mental health and substance abuse counselors (fifth), and medical and clinical laboratory technicians (third).

The Seven Jobs That Require the Most Education, but Pay the Least

(as published by 12/7 Wall Street

(as published by 24/7 Wall Street)

At the third-from-the-top spot on the 24/7 Wall St. list are the medical and clinical laboratory technicians. Their median income is $36,280, with a bottom-tier income of $24,210. Of this group, 71%—nearly three-quarters—have a bachelor’s degree and 11% have a master’s degree. In comparison on this list, the lowest paid reporters (87% of whom have four-year degrees) earn a median income of $34,530, while recreational therapists earn a median income of $39,410.

The Bureau’s Occupational Outlook Handbook briefly describes each of the listed professions. It notes the importance of the medical/clinical laboratory technicians with this summary: “Laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease … medical technicians or medical laboratory technicians perform most of these tests.”

Clinical Laboratory Is Included in the “10 Germiest Jobs in America” List

The other aspect of the medical/clinical laboratory technician that deserves a closer look when it comes to compensation is the already increased and continually growing use of automation in the laboratory. Occupational Outlook Handbook notes: “Because of increased use of computers in lab analysis, technicians are required to be proficient in digital analysis rather than hands-on testing.”

Some MTs and CLSs would consider that inclusion of their occupation on a list of the most-educated and least-paid professions as “rubbing salt in the wound,” when taken in the context that the job of medical technologist/clinical laboratory scientist is also on the “10 Germiest Jobs List.” Just three years ago, Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D.—nicknamed “Dr. Germ”—a microbiologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, compiled this list.

Lab scientists ranked fifth on Dr. Germ’s list of the “10 Germiest Jobs in America,” in part, due to the patient samples that are handled for an extended variety of laboratory tests. Ranked lower than medical laboratory professionals on “Dr. Germ’s” roster were police and animal-control officers, janitors or plumbers, sanitation workers, and meat packers.

There is another significant detail about the ranking of the most-educated and least-paid professions. The category of “Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians” represents 156,250 individuals, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is, by far, the occupation with the largest number of professionals. The only other category on this list that represented more than 100,000 employed individuals was “Mental Health, Substance and Abuse Social Workers,” a total of 119,960.

—Carren Bersch

Related Information:

The Seven Jobs That Require the Most Education but Pay the Least

Lab Workers Make “Ten Germiest Jobs in American” List

Faculty listing for Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D., Microbiology